I should begin with a disclaimer. This is will probably make a few readers uncomfortable. And that’s cool. The truth often has that effect.
You’re wandering down a cobble-stoned street, passing white washed houses, balconies draped with flowers, the warm afternoon sun funnelling down through the trees. What could possibly ruin this moment?
Ahh yes, the ever looming smog of mysogyny that hangs low on every continent, regardless of the season.
I can confidently say that every female has experienced this in one way or another. While I’ve endured my fair share of it at home, there is an added layer of cringe when you’re travelling, especially on your own. The unfamiliarity of everything around you makes it all the more disturbing. And it’s this sort of thing that scares a lot of women off solo travel, and that’s something that desperately needs to be addressed.
I’ve been sexually harassed in more languages than I can count. From having elderly men in pink polo shirts and medical sandals literally get in my face, stare directly at my chest and say ‘wow’, to hoards of egotistical 20-somethings follow me down the street, spitting vulgar phrases like a pack of rabid dogs getting hyped up to terrorise the neighbourhood cat.
My go-to response is to not respond at all. Usually, I wouldn’t even acknowledge the person with so much as a glare in their direction, but a night out in Albufeira saw me reach my limit.
The Oura strip is a mecca for bachelor parties, excessive drinking and questionable (borderline illegal) behaviour. As I lined up at the bar inside a popular electro-house nightclub, fidgeting with my watch and keeping eye-contact to a minimum, I felt an unfamiliar hand grab a fistful of my right butt cheek. In a somewhat uncharacteristic manor that surprised even me, I swung around and threw a punch that Floyyd Money Mayweather would be proud of (or at least thats how I remember it).
The man’s stubbled jaw-line met my knuckles with impressive force. Thankfully, I’d remembered to wear my rings that night. Clearly shocked that I dared to retaliate when groped by a stranger, he stumbled backward and called me a ‘fucking psycho’. The accent was familiar. Turns out he was Australian. Disappointed, but not surprised.
I was raised on the ‘violence is never the answer’ principle, but sometimes…it is.
The world is full of incredible things, places and people (for the most part), but it is also full of people who, intentionally or not, will instil in you a lingering fear. A fear that makes you double check the lock on your front door and constantly look over your shoulder when walking down a quiet street. A fear that will make you hesitate every time you go to launch yourself on a new wave. This, I feel, is the bitterest inequality of them all; the fact that half the world’s population will go through life silently enduring a damaging mentality that the other half pass off without a second thought.